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Tourism Concern: Water Equity in Tourism - A Human Right, A Global Responsibility
"The right to water constitutes one of the most fundamental human rights. However, for many communities, particularly those living in the global South, this right is being compromised by tourism development."
A report on Water Equity in Tourism by Tourism Concern has revealed the stark inequities of water access and consumption between tourist resorts and local people in developing countries. Featuring research from Bali, The Gambia, Zanzibar, and Goa and Kerala, south India, the report finds that the unsustainable appropriation, depletion and pollution of water by poorly regulated tourism are threatening the environment, while undermining living standards, livelihoods and development opportunities of impoverished local communities.
These communities often remain excluded from the benefits of tourism, but also include small businesses trying to earn a living from the sector in a context where government policies tend to favor international hotels and tour operators over local entrepreneurs. This scenario is leading to social conflict and resentment, while threatening the sustainability of the tourism sector itself.
In Zanzibar: Luxury hotels consume up to 3,195 liters of water per room per day; average household consumption - 93.2 liters of water per day. Guards patrol hotel pipelines to prevent vandalism by angry locals. A power cut led to a cholera outbreak in which at least four villagers died after consuming well water thought to have become contaminated with sewage from nearby hotels.
In Goa, India: One five-star resort consumes some 1785 liters of water per guest per day; a neighboring resident consumes just 14 liters of water per day. Community wells are being abandoned due to contamination and declining water tables.
In Kerala, India: Sewage and fuel from mushrooming numbers of tourist houseboats are polluting Kerala's intricate system of backwaters, affecting fish catches and livelihoods, and forcing communities to increasingly depend upon limited and erratic piped supplies.
In Bali, Indonesia: Bali's iconic rice paddies are being lost at a rate of 1000 hectares a year due to spiraling land prices and the diversion of water to coastal resorts, threatening a water and food crisis. Despite being a 'tourist paradise', diarrhea prevalence remains above the national average.
In The Gambia: Women rise at 4 am to queue for hours at water standpipes. Most hotels have private boreholes and pumps to ensure a constant water supply, but fail to pay for what they consume, despite the desperate need to finance improvements to public water infrastructure.
Principles of Water Equity in Tourism
These Principles of Water Equity in Tourism aim to capture the essential points from the recommendations of the report, Water Equity in Tourism - A Human Right, A Global Responsibility by Tourism Concern. The Principles are underpinned by the notion of water as a human right.
- The right to water and sanitation should not be compromised by tourism
- Governments should implement clear regulations for sustainable and equitable water and tourism management
- Land use and tourism planning should be based on assessments of water resources
- Tourism businesses should implement their business responsibility to respect the right to water
- Tourism businesses should abide by the law
- Tourism businesses should reduce their water consumption
- Land use, tourism and water planning should be undertaken participatively
- Governments and tourism businesses should be accountable to local communities
- Cooperation to further water equity should be pursued by all stakeholders